I was really, really proud of our guys today. We practiced. The play was an extension of the way that we practiced over the break. Was really proud of the way they came back on the 26th. They were ready to go, a lot of retention from things we had talked about before the break, a lot of concentration and that showed itself today. We thought we adhered to the game plan extremely well. They’re a better basketball team than they appeared to be today. Obviously they live and die by that three-ball a lot, but we rushed their threes and took their first options away and that created some of that. And then offensively I was really proud of the way we shared the basketball. Twenty-three assists is an impressive number no matter who you’re plaing, when you’re playing or where you’re playing.
Sherri, how much of a boost was it to get Portia [Durrett] going tonight and what she contributed to you tonight?
Coale: Oh, she was terrific. She was terrific. I mean, a double-double, the numbers speak for themselves. But I thought it was—the best part for me was that she seemed to play with a clearer mind. She just let herself go play basketball, which is what she’s good at obviously. I loved her getting on the floor after loose balls and trying to make plays happen and she just looked more settled, and [I’m] really proud of her. I know that’s what she can do and that’s not all she can do.
Can you talk about your guys’ effort today? Because, I mean, I know you said when Whitney [Hand] went down, people weren’t going to see a team that played harder than you guys and everything like that. I thought it was reciprocated all the way down to your newcomers as well today.
Coale: Yeah, all the way down to Eden [Williams] and Tara [Dunn] come in and fight for rebounds and dive for loose balls. I mean, it was awesome. And again, all of that’s an extension of practice, and Sharane [Campbell] played really, really hard. Jas [Jasmine Hartman] played hard. I mean, we can go all the way down the roster. I thought the effort was complete from top to bottom. When guys got tired, they pushed through it and made it until we got somebody subbed in for them. So, I was just pleased with all of it, and for a first game back after the holiday break to be able to play at that pace with as slim of a roster as we have is pretty impressive.
Aaryn, how much does it help the offensive flow that Portia and Joanna [McFarland] contributed and even hit threes today?
Ellenberg: Oh, it helps so much. And I think when Jo rebounds it gives us all some sort of just extra energy, and when Portia comes in and is that aggressive, I mean it takes a load off of other people. And I mean we can look to her because she’s a good scorer, too.
Also, Aaryn, what does this do for the team? Does it just seem like you won by 20, you got contributions where you hadn’t gotten them in the past, perhaps? You shot the three ball well. It seems like it all helps you in a big, big way. Does it?
Ellenberg: Yeah, I mean it gives us as individuals and as a team a lot more confidence. I mean, they’re not a [weak team]. They beat UCLA, who we lost to right before break a little bit in. So, to come out here and beat them by that much, I mean it gives you a lot of confidence to know that we lost people but we’re still collectively together a good enough team to win games.
Portia, how did you feel about your game?
Durrett: I felt better. Today was basically to clear my mind. I’m just like today I felt like I just played, and like in the past I really haven’t played [like that]. I was basically thinking too much, but now it’s just time to play. So, it’s clear and I feel better.
What do you think it means for your season, future on? As a competitor I’m sure you want to play better earlier on in the season, but a game like today, how do you think that’s going to help you catapult on as we head on into conference play?
Durrett: Well, if I continue to play like this, it will help a lot because my teammates—there’s only 10 of us now—but I mean everybody’s gonna have to go in and play. So, they expected a lot from me, so that’s what I have to give.
Is this your offensive game? You know, I talked to you a little bit in junior college. You’re really comfortable shooting threes and…
Durrett: Yeah, I’m definitely comfortable shooting threes because I know I can shoot them, but I mean I can post. I can do it in the post, too, but when my mind’s clear, I can do whatever I basically know I can do.
Sherri, your offense is such a motion offense that your posts traditionally get threes. That really helps if they can hit them.
Coale: Well, I said before Portia came in that she was similar to Jo in that she can go and be physical at the block, but she can also set a ball screen and pop and knock it down like a guard can. And that’s probably the purest part of her game truly. I mean she can score in the post, but she can really shoot and in ways that are atypical for a four-man like off the dribble, step back that typically four-men can’t do. She can do some of that. But she has to slow down her brain, which she did today. And then the game looks easier again, and I bet she’s wondering why all those games before that weren’t that easy. But sometimes you gotta do it. You know, you just gotta get through it and you gotta do it. And now she’ll feel a whole lot better when we take the floor on Wednesday.
Sherri, you said talking to Brian out there, you said something like, ‘We can’t start talking about this game unless we talk about Joanna McFarland.’ And she had some foul trouble, but I understand what you were saying just the way she began. Can you just expand on it?
Coale: Yeah, just her aggression. She got every offensive rebound. I think in the first sequence she had two or three. The ball never even crossed halfcourt. She was coming up with every rebound. But it was more than that. It was her energy level. It was her pace. I think basketball’s all about pace of play, individually and collectively. And Joanna was at the right speed. She wasn’t rushed. She wasn’t hurrying. Her finishes around the basket were calm and very determined and very methodical, but strong to the hoop. Just she was never rushed. She never [hurried], and that’s something. Jo gets a little anxious sometimes and goes too fast. So, early on the first two or three possessions you could tell Jo was playing at the right pace, and it’s [good]. You know, she’s a senior and these guys look to her and see that, and then they all relax a little bit and feel a little bit better about what they can do and it just trickles down. And above and beyond all that, what Jo gives us because she’s Jo and what she means to the team, offensive rebounds just give life. I mean when you give them up it takes your life away and when you get them, it gives you live. And she made a lot of those plays.
When she left the starting lineup earlier, it seemed like she came back stronger and now it seems like—now that you’ve lost Whitney—it seems like she’s come back still stronger. I know you want to see it for another however long the season is, but it just seems like she’s making the most of the moment and really feels responsibility to do what she’s doing right now?
Coale: She’s one of the most competitive kids I have ever met. You don’t wanna do anything with [her]. Jo is competitive. She is going to win, whatever it is. If she makes a 99 on a test, she’s irritated because she should have made a 100. That’s just the way she is wired. And this situation sort of built for her. She understands what she has to do and how many people are counting on her, and she doesn’t have time to worry about, ‘Am I doing this right?’ She doesn’t have time. She doesn’t have the luxury of that anymore. She has to play. She has to play a lot. She has to contribute, and she gets that. So, it’s fun to see her have the chance to be so successful.
Vegas, did your offensive game come to you real smooth today? It looks like the last couple games you didn’t push anything, rush anything, but you know you can get your shot just about any time you want it. Are things coming to you pretty easily?
Ellenberg: Yeah, I think when I slow down. I get rushed a lot and sped up, and I had a few turnovers tonight because that, too. But I think when I slow down and Morgan [Hook] and Jaz and them did a great job penetrating. I got a lot of wide open shots, so I mean when they’re doing that, it helps me a lot. It just makes it a lot easier to just be calm and knock down shots.
You scored a lot inside. Is that because of quickness, you can just find a spot, or is there something about it? I mean can you explain? You score more than most people would think you could inside.
Ellenberg: I think it’s just more like live ball work. I mean people expect me to shoot a three more than half the time, so I mean when I slow down and get my eyes to the rim, you know, it opens up different opportunities.
Aaryn, you had 27 the previous game and 24 today. I know that your game doesn’t have to change an awful lot to go from scoring 16 a game to 24 or 25 a game, but is the increased points, do you feel like you need to come up with bigger games? Is this part of what you have to do going forward?
Ellenberg: No, I don’t feel that pressure to really score more. I think I mean they’re looking to me, I guess, but I think I’m taking as many shots as I probably did before. But I mean I don’t feel any pressure for that. I think it’s just coming that way.
Portia, what about the second half—you mentioned your comfort level—did you really get comfortable in the second half?
Durrett: Yeah, I definitely got comfortable in the second half. Once I saw my teammates going in the first half, it was like, ‘Oh yeah, we gotta keep it going.’ So, I definitely was comfortable.
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